Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell


Eleanor & Park is a heartwarming and poignant novel by Rainbow Rowell, first hitting the shelves in 2013. πŸ“šβœ¨ Set in the mid-1980s in a small town in Nebraska, it explores themes of young love, social class, domestic abuse, and the power of friendship. Rainbow Rowell, an American author known for her ability to weave complex emotional narratives with relatable characters, truly outdid herself with this novel. The genre of Eleanor & Park sits comfortably within young adult fiction, but its depth and the universality of its themes have earned it acclaim and a beloved spot among readers of all ages. Through its pages, Rowell brings to life the rollercoaster ride of first love, the struggles of fitting in, and the beauty of finding your person in the least expected place. πŸŒˆπŸ’‘

Plot Summary

Eleanor & Park, a novel by Rainbow Rowell, captures the essence of first love through its detailed plot, consisting of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Exposition β€” Eleanor, a new girl in town with bright red hair and a quirky style, starts her first day at a new school. Park, a half-Korean boy from a stable family, reluctantly allows her to share his seat on the bus. Initial annoyance turns into a deep bond as they share comic books and mixtapes.

Rising Action β€” Their friendship blossoms into romance amidst the backdrop of high school dynamics and family issues. Eleanor’s troubled home life with her abusive stepfather and poverty contrasts sharply with Park’s relatively stable family. Their love becomes a safe haven for both.

Climax β€” The relationship faces a major threat when Eleanor’s stepfather discovers her relationship with Park, leading to a dangerous situation at home. Eleanor has to make a heartbreaking decision for her and Park’s safety.

Falling Action β€” Eleanor leaves town with the help of her family and friends, cutting off all communication with Park. It’s a period of heartache and growth for both as they navigate life without each other.

Resolution β€” The novel ends on a hopeful note. Months later, Park receives a postcard from Eleanor with three words, leaving their future and the possibility of reconnection open to interpretation.

This plot summary underscores the novel’s journey through the complexities of teenage love, set against the harsh realities of life’s challenges.

Character Analysis

Eleanor & Park is rich with characters who are as complex as they are captivating. Here’s a deeper look into the main characters and their journeys throughout the story.

Eleanor β€” Eleanor is the new girl in town, noticeable for her bright red hair and unique fashion sense. Coming from a broken and impoverished family, Eleanor’s life is far from easy. She faces bullying at school and abuse at home, which makes her resilient but also wary and defensive. Her character development is profound as she learns to trust and open her heart to Park, showcasing her vulnerability and strength.

Park β€” Park, half-Korean and half-white, navigates his life in the midwest, struggling with his identity and the pressure to fit into societal norms. His initial reluctance to connect with Eleanor evolves into a deep, empathetic love. Park is a testament to the power of kindness, understanding, and unconditional support, standing by Eleanor through her darkest times.

Richie β€” Richie, Eleanor’s stepfather, is the antagonist of the story. His abusive behavior towards Eleanor and her family adds a dark undertone to the novel, highlighting the impact of domestic abuse on children and their psychological development.

Eleanor’s Mother and Siblings β€” Eleanor’s mother and siblings play pivotal roles in showcasing the dynamics of a family struggling under the weight of abuse and poverty. They illustrate the varying responses to domestic abuse and the complexity of love and loyalty in such circumstances.

Park’s Family β€” In contrast, Park’s family represents stability and support, though not without their own flaws and struggles. They provide a backdrop for Park’s character development and play a crucial role in the story’s resolution.

CharacterPersonality TraitsMotivationsDevelopment
EleanorResilient, guarded, creativeTo find safety and acceptanceOpens up to love, becomes more vulnerable
ParkKind, understanding, loyalTo protect and support EleanorGrows in empathy and courage
RichieAbusive, controllingTo dominate and control his familyRemains antagonistic, no redemption
Eleanor’s MotherSubmissive, lovingTo keep her family togetherStruggles with her choices, complexity of abuse
Park’s FamilySupportive, complexTo provide stability and understand each otherLearns to embrace differences and support Eleanor

The character analysis of Eleanor & Park reveals a rich tapestry of human emotion, resilience, and growth, making it a compelling read that resonates with many.

Themes and Symbols

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell weaves together various themes and symbols that enrich the narrative and highlight the emotional depth of the story.


Love and Acceptance β€” The relationship between Eleanor and Park serves as the central theme, illustrating the transformative power of love and acceptance. Their bond provides a safe haven from the outside world and showcases how genuine affection can help overcome personal traumas and societal pressures.

Family Dynamics and Domestic Abuse β€” The starkly contrasting family lives of Eleanor and Park underscore the impact of family dynamics and domestic abuse. Eleanor’s abusive home life with Richie highlights the cycle of abuse and its effects on the family unit, while Park’s family, despite its imperfections, provides a model of support and stability.

Identity and Self-Expression β€” Both Eleanor and Park struggle with their identities and how they express themselves in a conformist society. Eleanor’s bold appearance and Park’s mixed-race heritage place them outside the “norm,” making their journey towards self-acceptance a significant aspect of the narrative.

Social Class and Poverty β€” The novel explores the realities of social class and poverty, particularly through Eleanor’s experiences. Her family’s financial struggles are depicted with brutal honesty, affecting her social interactions, self-esteem, and everyday life.


Comic Books and Mixtapes β€” The exchange of comic books and mixtapes between Eleanor and Park symbolizes their growing intimacy and the unique language of love they develop. These items represent the moments of escape and connection in a world where both feel out of place.

Eleanor’s Clothing and Appearance β€” Eleanor’s distinctive clothing and appearance symbolize her individuality and resilience. Her style is a form of self-expression and defiance against conformist norms, reflecting her inner strength amidst adversity.

Park’s Headphones β€” Park’s headphones symbolize his initial isolation and the personal barriers he puts up. As he shares them with Eleanor, they become a symbol of connection and the breaking down of emotional walls.

These themes and symbols intertwine to create a rich, multi-layered narrative in Eleanor & Park, touching on the complexities of human relationships, the struggle for identity, and the power of love to transcend barriers.

Style and Tone

Rainbow Rowell’s writing style and tone in Eleanor & Park significantly contribute to the novel’s mood and atmosphere, engaging readers with its authenticity and emotional depth.

  • Emotionally Engaging Tone: Rowell masterfully balances the heaviness of themes such as abuse and bullying with the exhilarating and heartwarming experience of first love. Her tone varies from deeply introspective to light and humorous, capturing the rollercoaster of emotions that characterizes adolescence.
  • Accessible and Relatable Writing Style: The narrative is accessible, making it easy for readers of all ages to connect with. Rowell’s use of simple yet evocative language paints vivid pictures of Eleanor and Park’s experiences, thoughts, and environments.
  • Dual Perspectives: The alternating viewpoints between Eleanor and Park enrich the storytelling, providing deeper insight into their individual perspectives and emotional journeys. This technique allows readers to empathize with both characters on a more personal level.
  • Period Authenticity: The 1980s setting is reflected not just in the cultural references but in the style and tone of the book. The dialogue, music references, and social dynamics are reminiscent of the time, adding an authentic layer to the narrative.
  • Emphasis on Internal Monologue: Much of the novel’s depth comes from the characters’ internal monologues. Rowell gives readers a front-row seat to the protagonists’ inner conflicts, fears, hopes, and dreams, which are articulated with raw honesty and vulnerability.
  • Symbolic Use of Music and Pop Culture: Music and pop culture references are not just decorative but serve to deepen the connection between Eleanor and Park, reflecting the era and their evolving relationship. Rowell uses these elements to evoke nostalgia and underscore themes of identity and belonging.

Rainbow Rowell’s writing in Eleanor & Park is notable for its warmth, sensitivity, and the nuanced way it captures the complexities of first love and growing up. The style and tone play a critical role in making the story immersive and emotionally resonant.

Literary Devices used in Eleanor & Park

Rainbow Rowell employs a variety of literary devices in “Eleanor & Park” to enhance the storytelling, deepen the emotional impact, and enrich the reader’s experience. Here are the top 10 devices used:

  1. Metaphor β€” Rowell uses metaphors to create vivid imagery and convey complex emotions. For instance, Eleanor’s feelings for Park are often described through metaphors that compare their relationship to something magical or out of the ordinary, illustrating the intensity and uniqueness of their bond.
  2. Simile β€” Similes are used frequently to draw comparisons between the characters’ emotions and relatable experiences or objects, making the characters’ feelings more accessible to the reader. For example, Eleanor’s happiness with Park is likened to feeling like she’s a balloon, floating away with joy.
  3. Personification β€” The author personifies objects and concepts to highlight the characters’ inner worlds and the intensity of their experiences. This can be seen in how music or mixtapes, significant symbols in the story, are described as having a life and emotion of their own.
  4. Irony β€” Irony is used to underscore the contrast between the characters’ perceptions and the reality of their situations, often highlighting the bittersweet aspects of their relationship and the challenges they face in their personal lives.
  5. Foreshadowing β€” Subtle hints are woven into the narrative, foreshadowing future events or the eventual outcomes of Eleanor and Park’s relationship, adding a layer of suspense and depth to the reading experience.
  6. Imagery β€” Rich and detailed imagery immerses readers in the world of the novel, from the vivid descriptions of Eleanor’s eclectic style to the tangible tension in her household. This device helps to create a vivid setting and atmosphere that supports the emotional and thematic undercurrents of the story.
  7. Symbolism β€” Various objects and motifs, such as Eleanor’s red hair or Park’s comics, are imbued with symbolic meaning that reflects the characters’ identities, the nature of their relationship, or the societal pressures they face.
  8. Alliteration β€” The use of alliteration adds a lyrical quality to Rowell’s prose, enhancing the reading experience and emphasizing particular moments or descriptions that are significant to the characters’ development or the narrative’s mood.
  9. Hyperbole β€” Exaggeration is employed to convey the intensity of the characters’ emotions or situations, often injecting humor or dramatizing the highs and lows of teenage love and life’s challenges.
  10. Repetition β€” Repetition is used for emphasis, to highlight key themes, or to underscore the significance of certain moments, thoughts, or feelings in the characters’ journeys.

These literary devices collectively contribute to the depth, emotion, and impact of “Eleanor & Park,” showcasing Rainbow Rowell’s skillful storytelling and her ability to connect with readers on a profound level.

Literary Devices Examples

For each of the top 10 literary devices used in “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell, here are examples and explanations in table format. We’ll create a table for each literary device to illustrate how it’s employed throughout the novel.


Eleanor’s feelings for Park are often described as a force of nature, such as a storm.This metaphor conveys the intensity and uncontrollable nature of her emotions towards Park.
Park’s emotions towards Eleanor are likened to a song that fills up the silence.This illustrates how Eleanor brings color and life to Park’s world, emphasizing the depth of his feelings.


Eleanor felt like a balloon that was about to float off into the sky whenever she was with Park.This simile captures the lightness and joy Eleanor experiences in Park’s presence, highlighting the transformative power of their relationship.


The mixtapes they share breathe life into their budding relationship.Personifying the mixtapes emphasizes how music acts as a catalyst for their emotional connection and communication.


Despite being surrounded by people, Eleanor often feels utterly alone, except when she’s with Park.This irony highlights the isolation Eleanor feels due to her family situation and social standing, contrasting with the connection she finds with Park.


Early mentions of Eleanor’s cautiousness around her stepfather hint at the darker aspects of her home life that are fully revealed later.This foreshadows the challenges and conflicts that will arise from her abusive home environment.


Rowell describes Eleanor’s eclectic fashion with vivid colors and textures, painting a clear picture of her unique identity.This imagery serves to underline Eleanor’s distinctiveness and resilience, setting her apart in the social landscape of the school.


Eleanor’s red hair stands out in a crowd and becomes a symbol of her otherness, as well as her strength.The symbolism of her hair reflects Eleanor’s struggles with identity and acceptance, as well as her inherent resilience.


“Park played with the zipper on his jacket, zipping it up and then down.”The alliteration draws attention to Park’s nervousness in a subtle, auditory way, enhancing the mood of the scene.


Eleanor says she would “die of happiness” if she could sit next to Park on the bus forever.This hyperbole emphasizes the depth of Eleanor’s affection for Park and her craving for moments of peace and happiness in her tumultuous life.


The repeated references to Park’s hands holding Eleanor’s, throughout the novel.This repetition underscores the comfort and connection they find in each other, symbolizing their bond and support.

These examples showcase how Rainbow Rowell uses literary devices to add layers of meaning, emotion, and vividness to the story of “Eleanor & Park,” enriching the reader’s experience.

Eleanor & Park – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of Eleanor & Park?
A: The main theme of Eleanor & Park revolves around young love and the challenges that come with it, including issues of identity, family dynamics, and social acceptance.

Q: How does the novel Eleanor & Park address issues of bullying?
A: The novel addresses bullying by showcasing Eleanor’s experiences at school and on the bus. It highlights the impact of bullying on individuals and the importance of empathy, understanding, and support from others in overcoming such challenges.

Q: What role does music play in Eleanor & Park?
A: Music plays a significant role in the novel, serving as a bridge between Eleanor and Park. It symbolizes their connection and is used as a means of communication and expression of their feelings for each other.

Q: How is family portrayed in the novel?
A: Family is portrayed in contrasting ways through Eleanor’s and Park’s families. Eleanor’s family is depicted as dysfunctional and abusive, highlighting the negative impact of such environments. In contrast, Park’s family, while not perfect, is shown as more stable and supportive, offering a glimpse of positive family dynamics.

Q: Can Eleanor & Park be considered a coming-of-age novel?
A: Yes, Eleanor & Park can be considered a coming-of-age novel as it explores the protagonists’ journey towards self-discovery, acceptance, and the challenges of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.

Q: What are some of the challenges Eleanor and Park face in their relationship?
A: Eleanor and Park face several challenges, including societal judgment, bullying, family issues, and internal insecurities. These obstacles test the strength of their relationship and their ability to overcome adversity together.

Q: How does the setting contribute to the story in Eleanor & Park?
A: The setting, in the 1980s in a small town, contributes to the story by framing the social and cultural context of the time. It influences the characters’ behaviors, experiences, and the societal norms they navigate, adding depth to the narrative.

Q: Is there a sequel to Eleanor & Park?
A: As of my last update, there is no sequel to Eleanor & Park. The story ends in a way that leaves the future of Eleanor and Park’s relationship open to interpretation, encouraging readers to imagine what comes next for the characters.


QuestionABCDCorrect Answer
What year is Eleanor & Park set in?1983198619901978A
How do Eleanor and Park initially connect?Through a school projectSharing comic books on the busAt a school danceIn a class they have togetherB
What is a significant symbol of Eleanor and Park’s relationship?A pair of sneakersMixtapesA comic bookA letter jacketB
Which theme is NOT explored in Eleanor & Park?The impact of bullyingThe power of first loveTime travel as a metaphor for growthSocial class and povertyC
How does Eleanor primarily describe her feelings for Park?Like a stormAs a calming presenceLike a balloon floating awayAs a complicated puzzleC
What is Park’s ethnic background?Korean-AmericanVietnamese-AmericanJapanese-AmericanChinese-AmericanA
Which character faces bullying at school?ParkEleanorBoth Eleanor and ParkNeither Eleanor nor ParkC
What does Park give Eleanor to read on the bus?NovelsMagazinesComic booksPoetry booksC
Who is the antagonist in the story?Eleanor’s motherPark’s fatherEleanor’s stepfather, RichiePark’s brotherC
What is the climax of the story?Eleanor running awayEleanor and Park’s first kissEleanor confronting her stepfatherPark winning a martial arts tournamentA

This quiz is designed to test your comprehension of key aspects of “Eleanor & Park,” including plot details, character development, and thematic elements.


In this exercise, you’re tasked with identifying literary devices in a given paragraph from “Eleanor & Park.” Read the paragraph carefully, then list the literary devices you find.

“Eleanor imagined she could feel the warmth of Park’s skin through his shirt. It was like sitting next to the sun. She wondered if he could feel her leaning slightly towards him, trying to soak up his heat. Every time he turned a page, she felt a wave of his scent wash over her – a mix of soap and something crisp, like autumn leaves. She wanted to close her eyes and breathe it in, to bathe in the sensation of being so close to him.”


  1. Simile: “It was like sitting next to the sun.” – Compares Park’s warmth to the sun, emphasizing the comfort and intensity Eleanor feels.
  2. Imagery: “She wondered if he could feel her leaning slightly towards him, trying to soak up his heat.” – Creates a vivid image of Eleanor’s physical closeness and her desire for warmth.
  3. Personification: “Every time he turned a page, she felt a wave of his scent wash over her” – Gives a sensory experience human-like qualities, enhancing the intimacy of the moment.
  4. Metaphor: “a mix of soap and something crisp, like autumn leaves.” – Compares Park’s scent to autumn leaves, suggesting a freshness and a seasonal, nostalgic quality.
  5. Hyperbole: “She wanted to close her eyes and breathe it in, to bathe in the sensation of being so close to him.” – Exaggerates Eleanor’s desire to emphasize the depth of her feelings and the overwhelming nature of her emotions.

This exercise helps in understanding how Rainbow Rowell uses literary devices to enrich the narrative and deepen the emotional connection between the characters and the readers.